MSU Men’s Basketball

Unless otherwise noted, all articles on this page were either written by Jeremiah Short or were taken from press releases submitted to us. Jeremiah Short covers Mississippi State University football and basketball.  Follow him on Twitter, @JeremiahShort26; join his Facebook blog, Real Story Sports: J.Short’s Blog, or e-mail him, JShort@realstorypublishing.com.
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Is Just Enough, Good Enough Anymore?

I started off this basketball season asking if Rick Stansbury should be on the hot seat. The Bulldogs answered the challenge, going 13-2 in non-conference play—including victories overWest Virginia, Texas A&M, andArizona. The Bulldogs were expected to be top contenders for the SEC Championship, heading into conference play, but the Bulldogs sputtered out of the gate, losing to Arkansas and then were upset by in-state rival Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs recovered and were able to put together two solid-back-to-back wins, against Alabama and Tennessee.  They also had a solid road win against Vanderbilt and then won convincingly against Ole Miss, a few games later. The Bulldogs seemed ready to get on a roll after the Ole Miss victory, but they proceeded to go on a five game slide, with three of the losses coming against LSU, Georgia, and Auburn – teams not projected to make the field of 68 in March.

The Bulldogs were once a tournament lock, but they are now a bubble NCAA tournament team, after a loss to Alabama. The more I think about this season; I can’t help feeling I’ve seen this movie before: a Stansbury-led team that is blessed with talent, underwhelms and disappoints.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. The fan base has long clamored for change, but this year the vitriol has reached an all-time high. There are Stansbury supporters, who cite the 14-year coach’s winning record. His supporters always question whether Mississippi State can get a coach that is a better than Stansbury. Stansbury has always done just enough to not get fired. The question becomes, though, is just enough, good enough anymore?

The Mississippi State main athletic programs – football, baseball, and track and field – all seem to be moving toward a championship level. The basketball program is the only program at a standstill. The basketball program just can’t take that next step. The difference between the other main sports and basketball is – coaching.

There is no denying Stansbury is the winningest coach in school history. But, perhaps, that is more of an indictment on the program, rather than a testimonial for Stansbury. There are factors in Stansbury’s favor, but several work against him.

One of those factors is the constant drama surrounding the basketball program. The issues date back seven years, to when Gary Ervin, Mississippi State’s then-starting point guard transferred to Arkansas after a rumored rift with freshmen Walter Sharpe, Charles Rhodes, and Jerrell Houston.

Sharpe and Houston were dismissed the next season, a couple of games into the SEC schedule. It was the first in a string of key players leaving the Bulldog program. Richard Delk and Reginald Delk were starters from 2005 to 2007, but transferred in 2007. Ben Hansbrough, one of their replacements in the starting line-up, transferred after the next season. Another key contributor, Romero Osby, transferred two years later.

Players transfer at the college level, but the way it has happened at Mississippi State is what is troubling. It just makes me wonder about the stability, or should I say, instability, of the basketball program. The most recent evidence of problems in the basketball program was the fight in the stands between Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, during the 2010-2011 season. The incident put a black eye on the program. Bailey ultimately transferred to another school and Sidney stayed remained on the team.

Stansbury continued to have trouble with his program, prior to the start of this season. The aforementioned Sidney missed an overseas exhibition trip, and Stansbury was nationally criticized for allowing him to miss it. Parade All-American D.J. Gardner also was dismissed, after a series of profane tweets voicing his displeasure with how he was being treated.

Another 2011 signee, Shawn Long, transferred from the program to get closer to home. Stansbury had already lost 40 percent of his 2011 recruiting class, half-way through the season. It was just another episode in the saga that isMississippiStatebasketball.

During his tenure, Stansbury has also had problems developing talent. He has always been touted as a great recruiter, but Mississippi State hasn’t produced one first-round pick during his tenure—and only four overall draft choices: Derek Zimmerman, Lawrence Roberts, Mario Austin, and Jarvis Varnado. I think this has contributed to the inconsistency in the basketball program. Players have rarely reached their peak under Stansbury’s tutelage.

The constant drama and lack of talent development have both led toMississippiState’s program failing to reach expectations the past seven seasons. Stansbury has won several SEC West banners, but the Bulldogs have only made the tournament twice in six years – and are in danger of missing another, after the latest nose dive. In that time span, Stansbury has had talent: Jamont Gordon, Jarvis Varnado, Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney and Charles Rhodes.

Some other coaches have made the tournament with less talent. I’ve always heard that some of these players have been the problem—taking the blame away from Stansbury. I cite a Bill Parcells quote in response to that claim: “It’s never your fault but you’re always there, “said Parcells referring to one of his players always in trouble. Players always seem to get the blame for the problems in the program, but Stansbury is the one constant.

I ask everyone, again: is just enough, good enough anymore?

Jeremiah Short covers Mississippi State University football and basketball.  Follow him on Twitter, @JeremiahShort26; join his Facebook blog, Real Story Sports: J.Short’s Blog, or e-mail him, JShort@realstorypublishing.com.

Originally Published in February 29, 2012 Print Edition

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